Green… Nigeria’s first indigenous photographer in spotlight

Jonathan Adagogo Green (J. A. Green), now recognised as Nigeria’s first indigenous professional photographer, was born in Bonny (Rivers State, Nigeria) in 1873. He studied photography in Sierre Leonne and then established a studio in Bonny and became one of the most prolific and accomplished indigenous photographers to be active in West Africa.

Green, whose identity remained hidden behind his English surname, maintained a photography business in Bonny and worked mostly in the Niger Delta and its environs. His work covered a wide range of themes, including portraiture of British colonial officials, European merchants, prominent chiefs and elites and their families, particularly in Bonny, Kalabari, Opobo and Okrika.

In a statement signed by renowned historian and professor emeritus, In a statement signed by renowned historian and professor emeritus, E.J. Alagoa, Green also photographed scenes of daily and ritual life, including women making handicrafts, iron-workers and weddings, as well as commerce and buildings, both administrative and religious.

Some of his great iconic photographs such as that of Oba Ovonramwen in 1897, the British hulk and war canoes were published in prestigious newspapers and magazines like the London Illustrated News and other European publications.

And although his photographs were published in England and Europe to much acclaim, Green himself remained anonymous for more than a century and according to Anderson and Aronson, he was ‘an African photographer hiding in plain sight.’

Thankfully, Jonathan Adagogo Green has finally and firmly come into much-deserved limelight with the publication of the book African Photographer J. A. Green: Reimagining the Indigenous and the Colonial by the Indiana University Press U.S. in 2017.

The editors of this book on Green, Professors Martha G. Anderson and Lisa Aronson and the contributors, Emeritus Professor E.J. Alagoa, Tam Fiofori and Christraud M. Geary, have in this book uncovered 350 of Green’s images in archives (in Britain and the U.S.) publications and even private albums in Nigeria and abroad that celebrate the indigenous and the colonial during Green’s career as a professional photographer.

The landmark book unifies these dispersed photographic images of Jonathan Adagogo Green and presents a history of the photographer and the area and times in which he lived and worked.

African Photographer J.A. Green: Reimagining the Indigenous and the Colonial will be publicly presented and launched on Thursday, March 1, 2018 at 11am, at the Royal Banquet Hall, Presidential Hotel, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, at a ceremony organized by Onyoma Research.

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